After Amy Anderson lost her son Bryson in utero at 20 weeks in 2010, she decided to participate in a “unique form of organ donation,” she tells PEOPLE.
Despite her doctor’s orders, Anderson began to pump her breast milk as a way to relieve her “horrid pain” and as a way to grieve.
“As I expressed the milk, a real sense of calm descended,” says the mother of two. “I felt a powerful closeness to my Bryson, which reminded me how much I loved the breastfeeding relationship I had shared with my eldest son. Pumping milk in Bryson’s memory felt so very right.”
Over the course of eight months, Anderson, 34 – who has also undergone three miscarriages – donated 92 gallons of breast milk to five different milk banks including an in-person delivery to Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast in Massachusetts.
“I couldn’t give my love or milk to Bryson, as he wasn’t there in the physical sense,” she says. “Yet I was able to express my love for him through expressing and donating his milk. It was very healing both physically and emotionally.”
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Not everyone was supportive of Anderson’s journey. Her employer discouraged her from taking regular breaks to pump because the Break Time for Nursing Mothers law did not apply to her.
“I was completely blindsided that the very law created to protect breastfeeding mothers would not pertain to my situation because I did not have a ‘nursing baby,'” she says. “And regardless of my reasoning [for pumping], I was a lactating women with physical needs to express milk for my own health.”
Now the Caribou, Maine, native is working to change the terminology of the federal law and provide support for other mothers in a similar situation through her Facebook page Donating Through Grief.
“Though it’s not the best choice for everyone,” she says, “it can help to foster healing and gratitude in an otherwise dark and desolate time.”